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Keshi throws Eagles roles open

Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi

Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi has revealed he has no favourite player for any role in the team as he prepares to release a provisional team list ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner told journalists at an interactive session organised by TomTom in Lagos on Tuesday that players on the provisional 32-man list expected next week would have to prove themselves worthy of a final selection.

“All spaces are available for competition,” he said when asked about his preferred players for the final 23 spots.

On Osaze and Ike Uche

They have equal chances like every other Nigerian player out there. I draw a list of 32 players in preparation for the World Cup and if theirs are on it, they’ll have to prove why they should be in Brazil. They are paid to score for their team; that is what they do. If they are in Nigeria’s team they have to play and score goals.

The key thing he needs in the team

The one thing I need most is discipline among the players. But one thing alone cannot make it. You need the determination and commitment from the players. There must be work ethics too; if we have a good player without a good character, there will be problem. We need all these to make a good team.

Players’ playing time for clubs

It’s unfortunate they are not playing regularly for their respective teams, but these men are good football players. They’re not people I need to teach how to play football. It’s just the chemistry I need to bring into the team. I’d really love to see them play regularly for their teams but I’m not in control of that. I think they are in good shape; I saw how Mikel Obi played when he played in their (Chelsea) last match. I spoke with Victor Moses and asked him what was going on, his answer gave me hope that he can still play. Nigeria needs these players.

His position on Sylvanus Okpala

Up till now, the situation about Okpala has not changed. He is not in the coaching crew now, but tomorrow the situation might change.

On the proposed friendly games

I’m satisfied with the coming friendly games. Going into the friendlies will not be a must-win situation. We have to give opportunity to some of the players, see how we can work on tactics and monitor the players during critical games. The results don’t matter in the friendly. We have the USA to play in the last friendly before going to the World Cup; this is good for the team.

On Leon Balogun and players with dual nationality

It depends on the status that they have in their country. For someone like Balogun, he never played in any of the junior teams for Germany so that made it easier for us to have him play for Nigeria. But if he had played for any of the junior teams for Germany, we would have to go through FIFA and try to clear the player. That is not my job. I’m happy with Balogun’s improvement and that he’s playing for us. By May he should be ready to play in the team again.

On team psychologist

Psychologist in football is very important. His work makes the players focus. But the first psychologist in the team is the coach. I should be able to perform my role as a  coach, as a teacher and as a psychologist. When I need a trained psychologist to come in, I bring him in. We have one in the team.

On monitoring Iran and Bosnia

That’s the first thing any coach would do – to have someone monitor your oppositions. Too much information might get you confused about everything. But we do have such plan. I’ll be at the last two games each of the countries will play, and my video analyst will bring some DVD for us from South Africa about the teams. We’ll study these and see what we can do.

His relationship with the NFF

My relationship with my bosses and the office is good. There was never a target. We wanted to qualify for the World Cup so we did. I have a personal target, I’ve always had. There’s no pressure. The pressure and target are self-imposed because I have a focus.

On remaining as Super Eagles coach

Meeting my target will be giving me an opportunity to continue with the Super Eagles. If the conditions are right, I’ll stay as a coach. I’m a pro. I have my family to feed; I need to think about that. We’ll see what happens after the World Cup.

On WAGs at the World Cup

I think in every civilised nation, players go with their wives to the World Cup. It’s good for the players; it enhances their concentration. I can’t say anything about girlfriends though. At the 1994 World Cup, some of us went with our wives. When I was in Mali, we went with our wives to the Nations Cup in Angola.

On players’ regularity with their teams

I don’t recall saying players who don’t play regularly at their clubs will not play in the national team. You can be well and the coaches refuse to choose you, that doesn’t mean you’re not a good player. If the coach chooses someone else, the player can’t do anything about it. If I have the calibre of Mikel and Moses not playing regularly for theie clubs and I decide not to use them for Nigeria, I’ll be killing myself and Nigeria’s chances at the world level. I’ve been there, I played in Europe a long time and I know how it works. If you’re not good enough for them (at the clubs), maybe you’re good for me. While coaching Mali and Togo, I used some players like these. They were not regulars in their clubs but they were champions in the national team. With them, we qualified Togo for the World Cup. If you’re good and intelligent enough, you will play for the Super Eagles.

Agbim’s performance at CHAN

I’m not worried about Chigozie Agbim’s performance. He is a good goalkeeper, and we saw a lot of goalkeepers flop at the CHAN. The problem with goalkeepers is that he is the last man standing. If he fails to stop the ball then he is bad, but before him there are 10 players who fail to stop the ball. What are they doing? I don’t have any problem with my goalkeepers; as long as they are in good shape, they are good for me.

Plans to include U-17 players in World Cup squad

From the U-17 team to a World Cup team, I think the distance is far. We need to nurture them and train them better. If we talk about the U-20, I might say we can bring one or two players, but the U-17 will need to progress to the next level before taking on bigger challenges.

Plans to reach the semi-finals in Brazil

The plan is to win each game as it comes.

African coaches’ naivety at World Cup

Can we say the European coaches that took Nigeria to the past World Cup were naïve, because they never went beyond the second round or first round? It means African coaches are not doing badly too. I think we should not be hasty to judge anyone’s performance.

Choice of either Vincent Enyeama or Austin Ejide

It is difficult to choose the best goalkeeper among the three goalkeepers. They are all very good in their jobs. You just have to choose and make up your mind on who mans the post. The best part is they respect one another so whoever is chosen gets a lot of motivation and encouragement from the others.

On Brown Ideye/Ahmed Musa not living up to expectations

I’ll advise them to keep working hard. In football, you need lots of techniques, commitment and confidence to achieve your goal. You cannot just throw away your players because they didn’t do well in one or two matches. If it works that way, Fernando Torres will not have a club. Chelsea bought him for £50m but look at how long it took him to score his first goal and he’s getting better. Apart from scoring, Brown Ideye works hard for the Super Eagles.

His positioning and tactical play is helpful in the team. Most of us that are not tactical-inclined will not see these, what we want is for him to put the ball in the net. But if a player scores and doesn’t work for the team, it causes more problems for the team. Ideye is doing well and I know when he starts scoring for Nigeria he will not stop. The same thing goes for Ahmed Musa, who is also a vital member of the team. We’re all conscious of what we have to do and we’re working on it. We all have to be patient.

On godmothers/South African interest

I don’t have a godmother in Stella Oduah. I’m not distracted by the interest South Africa has in me. I need to make the players be on their toes towards the World Cup. There is a lot at stake. Nigerians have a lot of hope in us now and they are supporting us so this is not the time to let them down. I don’t have problems with the Nigeria Football Federation about renewing contract, no such thing has ever happened. I don’t have any power over the NFF; I don’t go to anyone to report the NFF.

On Osaze Odemwingie’s apology

This is not just about me. He apologised to the NFF and he included my name and the names of other coaches. I think we can continue the relationship from there. He must have thought he needed to redeem himself and he apologised. We talk regularly, same thing as with Joseph Yobo. When the press said Yobo and Keshi were quarrelling, we were talking. Osaze said he was sorry.

Clemence Westerhof’s influence

If I had a broken leg, I would want to play for Westerhof. He was more than a coach; he was a mentor and sometimes I regard him as an angel. After the 1994 World Cup, I said I was done. But Westerhof believed I was going to be Nigeria’s coach. He called me one day, saying he saw me becoming the Super Eagles coach. I quickly rejected the idea and I went to the United States to study. It was my first daughter, however, that brought me back to football. She told me her school needed a coach but I said I wasn’t going to do it. She persisted, saying since I was a professional footballer I should be able to handle the students. So I started with kids and I began loving the game again. But as I did this, it reminded me of my early days in football. Westerhof is not a fantastic coach but he could psyche you up to play like Pele. He was always confident; he hardly used negative words to qualify his players. I learnt all these from him. I also learnt a lot from the great coaches I came across during my playing days in Europe.

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